New transplant rules help more African Americans get kidneys

Jonathan Leonard, 41, got a kidney transplant only four months after he went on the waiting list, thanks to allocation rule changes that made the system fairer. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON
As an African American physician specializing in kidney diseases, Jerry McCauley is keenly aware of racial gaps that have plagued his field. Compared with white people, blacks are far more likely to develop kidney disease and wind up on dialysis, yet are less likely to be evaluated and listed for a lifesaving transplant.

McCauley is proud to report, however, that a longstanding disparity in actual kidney transplants has been eliminated. Thanks to improvements in allocation policies that he helped to bring about — and an increase in African American organ donors — blacks on the waiting list now get their fair share of kidneys from deceased donors. So do whites, Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians.

“It’s been clear for many years that African Americans don’t get transplanted as often as everyone else,” said McCauley, director of the nephrology division at Thomas Jefferson University. “I’m happy to say that is no longer true.”

The achievement is heartening, given that racial disparities in health care are a well-documented and persistent problem in Philadelphia and across the United States. In general, minorities face inequities in getting insurance, accessing care, and sustaining that care during chronic illness. Continue reading

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